Category Archives: Producing a monthly magazine

An operose project

I am a longtime subscriber to Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day. This was the definition that popped into my in-box yesterday morning:

operose \OP-uh-rohs\, adjective:

1. Done with or involving much labor.
2. Industrious, as a person.

It’s not a commonly used word. In my 30-plus years as an editor I’ve never run across it. The contextual examples Dictionary.com provided were from writers of a different era: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Though not the final version of our 2012 cover, here's an idea of what it will look like. The book will be mailed to subscribers in January.

But the arrival of this word into my consciousness couldn’t have been more timely. My tiny team wrapped up production on our annual Schools, etc. education guide at nearly 10pm the night before (after several “near 10pm” days at the office last week). We were almost too exhausted to be happy that it was done.

For Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist, this marathon of a project has consumed most of her attention (and many of her weekends) since early October. She is one of the most industrious (diligent, hard-working) people I know, especially when it comes to this project. She is dogged (having or showing tenacity and grim persistence) in her pursuit of data. She is meticulous (showing great attention to detail; very careful and precise) about factchecking the information and crosschecking it every way she can.

For her, it is a project “involving much labor.” And truly a labor of love.

Thinking “different” on the day Steve Jobs died

Through no one’s fault but my own, I lost a month’s worth of work and email. I am typically very compulsive about weekly backups on my laptop. But in early September I found myself distracted by company in town, a busier-than-usual social life and beautiful, cooler weather in which to pursue adventures on my bicycle instead of my keyboard.

I’d look at the backup drive as I headed out the door and think, “tomorrow.”

Then Steve Jobs died. And on the same day, so did my MacBook Pro. My co-worker, Mala Blomquist, called the loss an empathetic death by a loyal machine in mourning for its founder.

My laptop did, after all, take a rather startling and dramatic leap from a high place, landing on a hard, stone floor in exactly the right position to completely destroy its hard drive.

The guys at MacMedia in Scottsdale quickly replaced the drive, but the possibility of full data recovery looked bleak. So I had them restore my world to Sept. 5, and have spent the last week trying to recreate what has happened since then.

In a way, the fact that this all took place on the day we lost a visionary and legendary corporate leader has helped me keep my perspective. I kept finding myself thinking, “What would Steve Jobs do?”

I knew he wouldn’t waste time feeling sorry for himself. Losing a bit of data would be nothing but a minor annoyance to someone who didn’t let pancreatic cancer dilute his creativity or drive.

I figured Steve Jobs would see my dilemma as an opportunity. A chance to “think different.”

So I challenged myself to do the same. Most importantly, I decided I was not going to panic. Mala noticed the difference. “You’re handling this a lot better than the last time,” she said. (That would be the time I spilled a whole cup of coffee on my keyboard, ruining another hard drive after a period of lapsed backups.)

I decided to look for the advantages of my situation. Instead of berating myself for my stupidity/carelessness/lack of responsibility, I decided to pat myself on the back for resourceful efforts I came up with to get around the situation. It became a game: If I no longer have [whatever], where could I find it? You’d be surprised to realize how much of your life is out there floating around. I recovered a precious recent photo of my two grown sons because I’d uploaded it to my Facebook. My art director had copies of several documents I thought I’d lost. Other staff members searched their outgoing email and resent requests they’d made in recent weeks.

In losing copious notes on my “to do” list, I had a chance to rebuild my work strategy based on true priorities instead compulsively tended minutia.

I’ve dropped some balls in the last week.  I’m sure there are more out there waiting to fall. But guess what? All those horrible consequences that perfectionists like me worry will result when we’re not 100% on our game? Didn’t happen.

As my friend and colleague Vicki Balint always says, “If nobody got cancer and nobody died, it’s been a good week.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go run a backup.

A welcome “thank you,” just for doing our job

Friday afternoons are typically very quiet at our office. For those of us who crave uninterrupted time to check things off our respective “to do” lists, it’s the best time of the week.

The cookie bouquet.

Last Friday, there was an unexpected bit of activity in our front reception area as a smiling gentleman arrived with a huge bouquet…of cookies!

The four of us who have offices closest to the front door emerged from the fog of concentration with puzzled expressions on our faces. As we looked at the man, the obvious question on our faces, he answered with a pronouncement: “Delivery. For Karen Barr.”

The custom bouquet, by Cookies in Bloom, was sent to us by Danielle Wurth of Wurth Organizing. It was her way of saying thanks for a RAK Mompreneur feature Dan Friedman wrote for our Monday, Aug. 8 online edition. I’d met Danielle at Arizona Moms Night Out, an event we co-hosted with Scottsdale Moms Blog in late July. I remember pulling Dan aside later, giving him Danielle’s card, and suggesting she might be a good person to profile in the weekly column featuring Arizona moms who run their own businesses.

One of the cookies at the front of the bouquet was made up to look like the cover of our magazine, with “RAISING ARIZONA KIDS” at the top and a pretty good imitation of me (delightfully unwrinkled and perfectly coiffed) underneath.

You’d be surprised to know how many of our stories get absolutely no response at all (good, bad or indifferent) from their subjects. So Danielle’s thoughtful gesture was completely unexpected.

We don’t expect to be appreciated for simply doing our jobs, of course. But it’s kind of nice when someone makes the time and effort to say thanks. Especially in such a creative (and tasty) way.

Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist offered to take a picture of me holding the bouquet. So this one is for my mom, who subscribes to this blog and always appreciates any glimpse into my day-to-day life.

An older, wiser mom

My son Andy’s birthday is today. He’s 26 years old. The number makes me gasp.

My thoughts are pulled back to the weeks surrounding his birth. The mystery, the worry, the pain — and the utter joy. And the vague recollection of a newspaper article that appeared when he was just five weeks old.

Before I got married, went to graduate school and had my son, I was a bureau chief for the Arizona Republic. A lot of the reporters and photographers still knew me. So when they needed a photograph of a new mom with her baby for a story they were planning to run, they called me.

Photographer Michael Ging came out to the little condo my husband and I were renting in north Phoenix and took a bunch of pictures. When the story appeared in the paper on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 1985, it included this photo, which will always be a cherished favorite:

Photo by Michael Ging.

I must have read the article, but I was probably so excited about the picture — or so overwhelmed by my role as a new mom — that I didn’t remember what it was about. When memories of  the photo surfaced today, I decided to revisit the story.

So I went to my three-ring binder labeled “1985” and pulled out the yellowed clipping.

“A Different Kind of Parental Guidance,” by then Republic staffer Linda Helser, was about a resource for older first-time moms. It described a fabricated character named Rosalie, who had her first baby at 35. This professional wonder had graduated magna cum laude, enjoyed yearly promotions at her job and had married a successful guy with whom she took European vacations.

The arrival of her baby completely threw her for a loop.

“In Phoenix, there are many more older women having babies today, and they probably know less about infant care than even the young ones,” Helser quoted a local parenting expert as saying. The story described how these older, better-resourced moms were seeking parenting education with the same kind of vigor with which they’d pursued education and career training.

I was 29. Raising Arizona Kids wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye. But something about that newspaper article must have stuck in the back recesses of my mind. Because four years and one more son later, I was planning the launch of the Valley’s first monthly magazine for families. By then, I’d realized what Helser’s story meant by “mothers who are wise enough to admit they don’t know it all.”

Toe-tapping fun with “Live to Dance” finalist Kendall Glover

When I saw the press release, I immediately forwarded it to my 11-year-old niece, Mandy Davis.

TV Dance Sensation Kendall Glover to Appear
at FOX 10 Dance Day Benefiting Phoenix Children’s
New Family-Friendly Fundraising Event Boasts
Great Entertainment and Fun for Everyone

Mandy attends the same school as Kendall, who propelled herself into the national arena with spectacular solo performances and a second-place finish in the CBS dance competition program “Live to Dance.” Like many of her classmates, Mandy has followed Kendall’s career closely. She even got a hug from “Live to Dance” judge Paula Abdul, who came to Phoenix to make the big announcement during a school assembly that Kendall had made it to the finals.

Mandy and I were texting each other excitedly the the night Kendall performed in the finals.

When I learned about the PCH event, which is happening from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, July 30, at Jobing.com Arena, I asked Mandy if she’d like to help me interview Kendall. “That would be awesome!” she replied.

Teri Lane, director of the Children’s Miracle Network and corporate development officer at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation, put me in touch with Kendall’s mom, Ann Glover. I wrote her an email, and very quickly received her gracious response: “Kendall is so excited to work with you on the Raising Arizona Kids/Phoenix Children’s Hospital  article. She is a busy girl, but is really a homebody at heart and loves doing things for her community, too.”

I snapped this photo as Kendall took a break during the class she taught at The Salvation Army. More photos to come from RAK staff photographer Daniel Friedman!

Kendall was going to be teaching dance classes at a Salvation Army day camp for kids the next week, so we met her there, observed as she taught the class and then, with the help of staff multimedia journalist Vicki Balint, recorded an interview from a list of questions Mandy and I prepared by sending our suggestions back and forth to each other by email.

Yesterday, Vicki invited us to her home office, where she does the magical work of mixing audio for RAK Podcasts and editing stories for RAK Video. A natural teacher, she talked to Mandy about how she crafts stories in digital media. She explained what the squiggly lines meant on the screen. (“See that, where it’s flat? That’s where there’s a lull because Karen paused after she said ‘um.'”) She let Mandy select the audio and video clips that would work best for each story. And then — the really cool part — she let Mandy pick the music soundtracks that would introduce and exit the podcast.

Mandy and I will be sharing our podcast and video in the weeks leading up to the PCH event. We’re also putting together a print story for the magazine’s September performing arts issue and an extended podcast to accompany that. So I don’t want to give away too much about the fun time we had with Kendall. But consider yourself warned: You will laugh, you will be inspired and you’ll definitely be tapping your toes.

Mandy learns about podcasting from multimedia journalist Vicki Balint.

Photographing grieving fathers

A guest blog by Raising Arizona Kids staff photographer Dan Friedman

For our June issue, I photographed four dads who had lost children for Mary Ann Bashaw’s story, “Fathers Reflect on Grief.” I wasn’t sure how the four dads would react to me tracking them down by email and telephone to make arrangements to take their pictures. Maybe they wouldn’t even want their pictures taken.

Support from the MISS Foundation has helped these dads cope with their grief. They understand that sharing their stories can be beneficial to others who are struggling with loss — or know someone who is.

With each of the dads, the grief was palpable. These photo sessions were different from any others I have done for the magazine, where the subjects often want the publicity an article with photos will bring them.

Being the photographer for Raising Arizona Kids involves traveling around the Valley taking pictures of people I am meeting for the first time, intruding on their lives for a few minutes and then leaving with an image that hopefully makes sense to our readers and helps me keep my job.

I chat with people to put them at ease while I set up my lights or look around their house for a suitable spot to take a picture. But this was different. I wondered what I would say to the four guys whose children died. Telling them I’m sorry about their loss seemed ill-suited to the situation. Who was I to tell them I was sorry? I was just there to take a picture that would appeal to our readers.

I settled on telling them I appreciated their taking the time to share their stories with our readers, who would be surely benefit. This seemed the most accurate and genuine.

The first dad I photographed was Jimmy Carrauthers. He is also a photographer, so it was easy to talk about photography with him while I was setting up lights. While I was checking my exposure, his phone rang so I have this photo of him holding the photo of his late stepson, Edwin, while he is talking on the phone. Sometimes the emotional moments I hope to capture are interrupted with mundane moments.

Jacob Christen Blain’s son Leo died when he was just eight days old. Jacob preferred to meet at his workplace, which meant the setting was not as personal a space in which to photograph him. I had to find a way to remove the setting. A large stucco wall worked out the best. Ironically, the stark background tells the story because Leo died so young and there aren’t dozens of photos or personal effects to include in the photograph.

Two of the houses I went to for the story were full of photographs. Photos are so ubiquitous in our culture, whether printed or electronic, that our memories are tied up in them. But for Jimmy, his tattoo was obviously the best way to tell his story. The illustration of his stepson is now a permanent part of his body.

Mark Eide had a giant photo of his family on vacation in Hawaii above his mantle. It includes his son Zack and daughter Katie, who died in a car accident in 2009. There many smaller photos around the house and on the memorial Facebook pages for Katie and Zack. The urns with their ashes were on a table nearby but I could hardly bring myself to look at, much less photograph, them.

Jason Freiwald had a life-size photo of his son Braden as well as dozens of other photos around the house but this one was his favorite. It made it easier for me since I needed to have some variety in my pictures to illustrate the story. If I were in Jason’s place could I look at a life-size photo of my dead child? I was amazed how composed and comfortable all four dads were to work with. I don’t know how they did it. But that is what I was photographing, four dads being composed and comfortable about sharing their loss. — Dan Friedman

The June story about grieving fathers was third in a four-part series we are running this year called “Finding Purpose in Grief.” Following are links to all three stories; the fourthwill be published in November. — Karen

The MISS Foundation Offers a Light at the End of Life’s Darkest Tunnel

When Birth and Death Merge

“Fathers Reflect on Grief”

Affirmation — and a challenge — from colleagues in the press

Last night, the Arizona Press Club honored journalists from statewide publications large and small with awards for exceptional work in reporting, writing, photography and design. Raising Arizona Kids was among the publications honored.

Mary L. Holden. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

Writer Mary L.Holden was recognized in the Non-Metro Writing/Social Issues Reporting category for her April 2010 story, “Casting a Light on the Shadow of Abuse.”

Mary put a lot of heart and soul into this project, which involved interviews with researchers and medical professionals who work the front lines in child abuse prevention and treatment. She listened to horrific stories about the unimaginable ways some children are mistreated by adults who typically lack the tools or knowledge to deal productively with the stresses and emotional damage in their own lives. She put a personal face on the issue by sharing the story of a Surprise family whose daughter was abused by a caregiver. She provided insights into the longterm damage of abuse and how it can manifest in adulthood.

James Motz of Surprise and his daughter Lilian, who was brutally shaken by a caregiver. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

The judge, Suki Dardarian, managing editor at The Seattle Times, described her entry as “a well-crafted story about the medical and emotional toll of child abuse. While it is a well-covered story, this reporter used strong cases and compelling writing to draw the reader through her story.”

Taylor Batten, editorial page editor of The Charlotte Observer, judged entries in the Best of Arizona/Features Blog category, to which I had submitted several of the blog posts I wrote about my experience in Ethiopia last summer, when I accompanied Paradise Valley couple Brian and Keri deGuzman on their journey to welcome two orphaned babies into their family.

Observing a distribution of food to starving families in Soddo, Ethiopia. Photo by Brian deGuzman.

“Barr produces memorable storytelling from an emotional and at times dangerous trip,” Batten wrote. “She is a powerful writer who captures the emotion of her subject while also revealing a bit about herself in an authentic way. Fantastic photos.”

It’s weird to be typing those words about yourself. As an editor it is my job to make other writers look good. I have attended many Arizona Press Club Awards events in the past 21 years to joyfully support my writers as they accepted awards. But in 35 years of writing and editing (give or take a few lost to graduate school or raising small children), I never once received an award.

What I’ve decided is this: It’s great to have a piece of paper that gives you membership in a small cadre of professional journalists whose work is deemed by peers to go above and beyond. It’s even better to hear the specific feedback, which envelopes your fragile writer’s ego like a soothing, restorative  balm.

But the very best part is the spark it ignites that grabs your imagination, rekindles your hope and challenges you to go out and do something even better.

Powered by interns

When you run a small media company like ours, maintaining a steady stream of capable interns is the difference between muddling through and really moving forward. When you can confidently offload some of the routine tasks involved in creating and editing content for publication (for print and web), you finally find time to tackle the big-picture tasks that hover too long on the “when I can get to it” list.

So it was with a sense of excited anticipation that I returned to Phoenix after a five-day trip to Seattle (where I spent some all-too-rare time with my two brothers) to welcome two summer interns to the RAK family.

Robert Balint. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

One is very familiar. Robert Balint, son of RAK multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint, is something of a returning veteran. His first stories appeared in Raising Arizona Kids in 2008, when he was still in high school at Brophy College Preparatory.

“Girls on the Mat” was about a female high school wrestler, “When Your Child Doesn’t Make the Cut” was about young athletes facing rejection and “Physicals Keep Athletes in the Game” explained what doctors look for during sports physicals.

That same year, Robert shared insights on his participation in the Phoenix Sister Cities program and many of us followed his blog posts during that trip. (We look forward to reading the next installments in his “Daily Occurences” travel blog when he leaves in July to spend six months studying in Argentina.)

Robert, who just completed his sophomore year at Boston College, will be with us for about six weeks before he heads to South America. During his internship, he will be writing for our collaborative Sports Roundtable blog, to which my husband Dan, who missed his calling as a sports reporter, periodically contributes. Dan and Robert teamed up in the multimedia department during Robert’s internship last summer, when they produced a great video piece about a high school football lineman competition.

I look forward to working with and getting to know our second summer intern, Sadie Smeck. Sadie is a graduate of Arcadia High School and currently is attending Washington University in St. Louis, where she will be a junior this fall, majoring in international studies and Spanish and minoring in writing. Although Washington University does not have a school of journalism, she is a reporter, writer and editor for the university’s independent newspaper, Student Life.

Sadie Smeck. Photo by Daniel Friedman. I have Vicki to thank for Sadie, too. Vicki introduced me by email  to Sadie, whom she described as “a family friend from our neighborhood, a good student and a hard worker.” While she’s with us this summer, Sadie will be covering community news, education and more.

In the “small world” department, it turns out that Account Executive Catherine Griffiths also knows Sadie. When Catherine showed up at work this morning (with her mom, who’s in town for Hunter Griffiths’ eighth-grade graduation), she immediately rushed over to greet Sadie warmly.

Turns out Catherine, whose older son Harlan has Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes, was once offered some very wise advice by Sadie’s mom, who was also navigating that journey because Sadie’s older sister lives with diabetes.

Read Catherine’s story, “What I Wish I’d Known about Managing My Son’s Diabetes.”

Proofreading lessons

Is it kid’s meals or kids’ meals or kids meals? That was the sticking point in November, when we published our annual “Kids Eat Free” directory.

Today, as I assembled seven proofreaders’ corrections to our June issue, there were questions about colons, capitalizations and hyphens.

One of my proofers noticed inconsistencies in how we were treating the first word following a colon. The rule is that a complete sentence following a colon requires a capitalized first word and a list (of words or phrases that are not complete sentences) does not. So this is correct:

What they found caught my attention: Men who had good memories of their relationships with their fathers while growing up better handled the stresses of adult life. (This is from a story about how dads can build good relationships with their children.)

And this is correct:

Other examples of adaptations: placing extra straps and pads on wheelchairs and walkers or re-wiring toys so a child who is unable to manipulate them can interact by touch or use a communication device… (From a story about Southwest Human Development’s new A.D.A.P.T. store.)

Moving on to our capitalization dilemma. When is a father “Dad” versus “dad”…?

Dad is capitalized only when used as a proper noun. So it’s “a dad” or “my dad” or “time spent with dad” (because you’re not talking about a specific dad but instead using the word as one would use the phrase “a dad”) … but “Dad (as in my dad, the guy I call “Dad” ) and I love fishing.”

Another capitalization catch: Our resident Francophile Mary Ann Bashaw noticed that we had used “french doors,” not “French doors” in a description of amenities at a hotel listed in our June issue’s directory of family-friendly resorts. The capitalized version is correct, as is French toast and French fries and French pedicure.

Another story in our June issue mentioned a “six-and-a-half pound baby.” It was missing a hyphen and should have been “six-and-a-half-pound baby.”

Enough for today. And by the way, it’s “kids meal.”

“Kid’s meal” means a meal that belongs to one child. “Kids’ meal” means one meal that belongs to a bunch of kids (and I would not want to negotiate that sharing lesson). “Kids meal” means a meal planned/prepared/priced (or whatever) to be appropriate for kids.

A pleasant detour

I’m usually pretty eager to get straight home on a Friday night but this time I decided to make an extra stop.

I had spent all afternoon getting caught up on recent contests we host through RAK Giveaways. I updated our list of winners on the website and emailed everyone to let them know their tickets were coming.

Claudia Magdaleno of Phoenix was particularly excited to hear that her family had won passes to SEA LIFE Arizona, and a chance to see the new exhibit, “CLAWS: Creatures of the Deep.”

“My daughter’s birthday is on Tuesday, so it will be perfect,” she wrote.

Our mail had already gone out for the day, so I told her the tickets would go out in Monday’s mail. But as I walked out the door I felt a nagging sense of worry. What if the tickets didn’t make it? I decided to make a detour on my way home so I could drop Claudia’s tickets at the post office.

Nothing I had on my evening’s agenda was more important than the chance to make a little girl’s day.